The Spot: A few hundred metres up from the cathedral on Ly Quoc Su street, this is up-market pho amongst a few curbside eateries. Fashion boutiques, tailors and handicraft shops denote this area as 'Tourist Central' and this joint is aiming for a cut of hard currency, too.
Space and Atmosphere: Verging on sanitised fast food outlet, with a glassed off kitchen, trendy downlights (as opposed to the usual naked lightbulb swinging in the breeze), big heavy timber chairs and tables, fresh lick of paint on the walls, menus and uniformed waitresses in pink. Not the 'shout-and-push fest' of the average Hanoi pho stop. It's all rather sedate and civilised. Not one scrap of napkin or discarded wedge of lime underfoot.
Shopfront Style: Salmon and cream paint job on the exterior walls of this art-deco style first floor which mutates above into 'innovativist' Vietnamese apartment block style: ramshackle, tack-on roomed, prison bar security, undies and caged birds hanging out the windows amongst a belief-defying tangle of electrical cables. Like the orange and brown signage, though. That's what caught my eye in the first place.
Sticks, Condiments and Crockery: In most Hanoi soup stations the chopsticks are washed and re-used bamboo. Here, in what is a first, I experienced disposable sticks, wrapped in plastic and snapped apart for use. The crockery and condiment receptacles are classic white - all a bit Country Road really, but a refreshing change from the floral numbers that are the norm.
Serving Station: All angles of glass, stainless steel, big stacks of white bowls, pots, steam and a little window at front where the product is despatched for delivery.
Meat Generosity: In keeping with the specifications of the Hanoi pho swoop, I order the double meat variation, tai chin. The tai (rare beef) is pink and tender, the thin slices of chin (like corned beef) would be fit for a white bread sandwich with tomato chutney, almost completely devoid of chewy fat. Plenty of both. Good quality cow!
Order to Delivery Gap: Snappy and with a smile.
Stock factor: Clear, a bit dark and robust. What I like about the soup here is the herb generosity. Even though there's no side plate of herbs as in the south, the soup is topped with blanched spring onions and lots of mint. This soup is no slap-dash affair. Someone cares.
Cost: 12,000VND (USD74c, AUD$1.00) a bowl, surprising considering the surroundings. I thought it could be more. Check out the menu.
FourFive of eightnineten